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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

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Ashley and Gerard Hansen

Hansen’s Sno-Bliz

The story of Hansen’s Sno-Bliz is the sort that New Orleanians love to tell. It involves a business built and sustained by three generations of one New Orleans family, it has a welcome post-Katrina happy ending despite some tragic twists, and its core narrative is all about sweetness. Ernest Hansen, a machinist by trade and an inveterate tinkerer, built his first Sno-Bliz ice-shaving machine in the 1930s so that he could make sno-balls for his family. Soon enough, his wife Mary parked the apparatus on the sidewalk beneath a Chinaball tree and began hawking freeform clouds of shaved ice drenched in homemade flavored syrups for two cents a pop – a penny more than the going rate at the time.

The business moved several times over the years, eventually landing in the cinderblock building on Tchoupitoulas Street where so many New Orleanians find reprieve during the hottest months. Cream of nectar, cream of chocolate, spearmint, orangeade, and Ernest’s Own root beer – all made daily – are among the favorite syrup flavors, but for many customers the Hansens themselves are the main reason for patronizing the shop. Ernest and Mary both passed away before they could return to the city after Hurricane Katrina. They had been married for seventy-two years. Their granddaughter, Ashley, who already had been working with them for nearly a decade, now runs the business. Ashley carries on Ernest and Mary’s warmth as well as their recipes.

Date of interview:

Sara Roahen

Sara Roahen

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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